Economic Indicators Drop; Weakness to Continue

The recession is likely to continue into the near term, according to The Conference Board Leading Economic Index released Thursday, which declined 0.4 percent in February, following a slight 0.1 percent increase in January. “The U.S. Leading Economic Index declined in February, but strengths and weaknesses were roughly balanced among its components,” said Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board. “Financial market volatility remains strong, and the credit market freeze is relenting very slowly. The LEI suggests the recession will continue in the near term.” Six of the ten indicators that make up The Conference Board LEI increased in February. Some of the positive contributors included interest rate spread — the largest positive contributor — vendor performance, building permits and real money supply. The largest negative contributor was the weekly first time claims for unemployment insurance, followed by stock prices, the index of consumer expectations and the average weekly manufacturing hours. The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index for the U.S. declined 0.4 percent — following a 0.6 percent decline in January — driven by continued declines in employment and industrial production. The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index also declined 0.4 percent in February, following a 0.3 percent decline in January. “Taken together, the behavior of the composite economic indexes suggests that the economic recession that began in December 2007 will continue in the near term,” the Board’s report said. And “a return to strong growth will not likely occur until 2010,” Goldstein concluded. “The near term economic outlook is weak,” the Fed said in a statement in Washington Wednesday. Still, policy measures “will contribute to a gradual resumption of sustainable economic growth.” Write to Kelly Curran at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade

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